Several months ago, I wrote about the Bahamian government’s new requirement that anyone traveling FROM the Bahamas with a dog obtain a Bahamian health certificate prior to departure. I wanted to share my own experience with the updated procedures during our recent trip to Green Turtle Cay.
The impetus for the new system, as explained to me last year by Dr. Godfrey Springer, Head Veterinarian for the Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture, was a recent distemper outbreak in Nassau.
Though most of the Bahamas remained distemper-free, Dr. Springer said, customs and immigration officers in other countries might refuse your pet entry unless you were able to prove s/he was not carrying this highly contagious disease.
A few weeks ago — about 10 days before we were scheduled to fly home to L.A. — I took Wrigley to see Dr. Bailey in Marsh Harbour. Dr. Bailey conducted a thorough physical examination and tested Wrigley for intestinal parasites.
He explained that he was required to physically send his exam results to the Ministry of Agriculture in Nassau, which would review them and issue a formal certificate. Total cost for exam, tests and document processing and shipping — $165.
About five days later, Dr. Bailey’s assistant Chamara got in touch to let me know the Ministry of Agriculture document had arrived.
When I picked it up, I was surprised to discover that it did not even mention distemper. All it does is certify that the Bahamas is a rabies-free country (huh?) and endorse Dr. Bailey’s exam report, which says that Wrigley appears free from illness or communicable disease.
Upon checking in for my flight from Marsh Harbour to Miami, I advised the ticket agent that I was traveling with a carry-on pet. She asked to see his papers, and I showed her the original Bahamian import permit I’d had obtained pre-trip, as well as the health certificate prepared by our vet in L.A. before we left for the Bahamas. I didn’t offer or mention the Ministry of Agriculture documentation I had recently obtained.
She glanced at my original L.A. health certificate, checked that Wrigley was vaccinated against rabies and that was it. Never did she mention or ask to see any Bahamian “export” documentation or permit.
Upon arrival in Miami, I declared Wrigley at customs, where the agent asked for his paperwork. Again, I presented only my original L.A. health certificate, which the agent checked to ensure Wrigley was vaccinated against rabies. Again, no mention of distemper, and no request for any Bahamian health certification.
So, to recap… close to $200 spent for the exam, tests, document processing and two round-trip ferry rides and nobody — either in the Bahamas or the U.S. — even asked to see the paperwork. Hmmm.
If you’ve traveled with a dog from the Bahamas in the past six months or so, I’d love to hear how your experience compared with mine. Did you obtain the Ministry of Agriculture health certificate prior to departure? Were you asked to present it, either when leaving the Bahamas or arriving at your destination?